Amidst dipping temperatures accompanied by light rain and chilly wind, Indians already hit by two injuries, found some warmth in a 4-1 win over South Africa in the second of their warm-up games on the eve of the Rabobank Hockey World Cup at the Hague.
The temperature has dropped to around 13 degrees Centigrade and there has been slight drizzle for better part of the afternoon over last two days and in such conditions, the Indians did well to come up with a fairly decent performance, even if South Africans are considered among the weakest teams in the tournament.
Indians, still recovering from injuries to Ramandeep Singh (hurt in the eye and cheekbone) and Nikkin Thimmaiah (hamstring), also gave their replacements Lalit Upadhyaya and Yuvraj Walmiki a chance to acclimatise themselves in the warm-up match against South Africa. Both gave a good account to the extent that Roelant Oltmans, the high performance director of the Indian team, and skipper Sardar Singh, were happy with what they saw on Wednesday evening.
Against South Africa, vice-captain Rupinder Pal Singh converted a penalty corner in each of the two halves while Sardar managed a field goal and VR Raghunath scored off a penalty corner in second half.
South Africa scored once through a penalty corner.
Oltmans said, "The first half of the match turned out to be a little slower than expected, but the second half of the game saw a really good performance by the team, where defence also gave an excellent response. We are happy to see both Lalit Upadhyay and Yuvraj Walmiki living up to the expectations from their very first match itself."
Sardar added, "It was the second practice game and I am glad the team is showing good results. The good part is that we all understand the wavelength and carry on with the game with the same mindset. This win against South Africa will further help in boosting the confidence of every player and especially Lalit and Yuvraj as it was their first game."
Ranked eighth in the world, India's first game is against Belgium, ranked No. 5, while the other teams in the group are Australia (No. 1), England (No. 4), Spain (No. 10) and Malaysia (No. 13),
Meanwhile, the hockey community gathered here paid respects to Sultan Azlan Muhibbuddin Shah, President of the Asian Hockey Federation (AHF) and FIH Executive Board Member, who passed away at 86 on Wednesday. The Opening Ceremony on Saturday will also see a minute's silence in his memory.